Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to nationalise private hospitals if their owners did not reduce health care costs.
Chavez made a nationally televised speech, saying that the privately owned hospitals and clinics would be made part of the public health service if they failed to abide by the law.
He also described costs at private clinics as a symptom of "the evil of capitalism", which allow only wealthier, insured patients to afford better treatment at private hospitals.
The Venezuelan president has taken a series of measures to improve the public health service, such as building new clinics and sending doctors to provide free care to poor people.
Following his re-election for a six-year presidential term in December, Chavez launched a nationalization drive in such key fields as telecommunications, electricity and oil.